Five years ago, Gilas Pilipinas made a return to the international basketball stage against a tough Croatia team.
Nobody gave the Filipinos a chance against the Croatians in the FIBA World Cup in 2014, the first time the Philippines had played in the tournament in 36 years.
Gilas shot 10 3-pointers and forced the game into overtime, but ultimately fell to Croatia 81-78.
"At the start of the game, of course, I had goose bumps because first of all, I saw a lot of Filipino fans at the venue," said former Gilas coach Chot Reyes, who, along with former Gilas players Ranidel de Ocampo and Marc Pingris appeared on SportsCenter Sunday night.
The trio reminisced about Gilas' first game back in the world championships, recalling the national team's comeback from a 16-point deficit in the second quarter.
De Ocampo, Gilas' noted stretch four player at that time, said the feeling was surreal when the Philippine national anthem was played inside the Centro de Portivo San Pablo stadium in Seville, Spain.
"Just imagine, at the World Cup, we were singing the Lumpang Hinirang. The feeling was just surreal," he said.
"And though we had a slow start, we felt [during the second-quarter run] that we can beat Croatia. In fact, by halftime, everyone was saying, 'We can beat Croatia!' 'We can beat Croatia!'" added De Ocampo.
After that narrow loss, De Ocampo is convinced Filipinos are capable of competing against the best basketball teams of the world.
"When we left the gym, we felt like we won because even though we lost the game, in the hearts of the Filipino fans, we were the winners," Pingris said.
For Reyes, the national team's performance was a moment he will cherish in his coaching career.
"We played a very good game," said Reyes. "We were proud of our effort. It's just a waste because we had a legitimate chance to win. But as a coach, my belief got validated that we can compete against these teams."